Detroit Tigers: Francisco Rodriguez is a Closer for the Ages

As a member of the Detroit Tigers, Francisco Rodriguez is in good company playing alongside other statistical leaders and future Hall of Fame players.

Along with fellow Detroit Tigers like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, Rodriguez should be in the conversation as a player who could eventually reach the Hall of Fame.

The 15-year veteran pitcher from Venezuela is currently the league-leader in saves for active closing pitchers. But, he also has several other factors going for him.

Currently, the Detroit Tigers closer sits in the #4 spot for all-time saves. He finished 2016 with a total of 430 saves. No other active closer in the MLB today has as many. The only ones who are close are Joe Nathan with 377 and Jonathan Papelbon with 368. It is doubtful that Nathan will close another game in the Major Leagues.

Impressive Save Percentages

Sep 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) celebrates after the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rodriguez did not have an All-Star season with the Tigers, but he was certainly one of the most reliable closing pitchers Detroit had seen in years. He had 49 opportunities to save games, but he blew 5 of them, saving 89.9% of his games. For comparison purposes, in 2014, Joe Nathan saved 83.3% of his games. In 2013, Joaquin Benoit saved 22 of 24 games – but there was that unforgettable event in Boston. Jose Valverde has his 100% year in 2011, but in 2012, he dropped to 35 for 40 with an 87.5% record. Then, there was the strangeness with Joakim Soria in 2014 and 2015. He finished with 88.5% (23 out of 26) save record.

The simple fact that Brad Ausmus could rely on Rodriguez to go out and close games was notable. Yes, Rodriguez has his doubters, but the man always came out and did his job. It was clear that he always came out with the attitude to win. Nothing he did on the mound was anything less than committed to success.

Unfortunately, Tigers fans did not get to see much of Rodriguez before he arrived in Detroit in 2016. He began his career in Anaheim with the Angels, but between 2009 and 2015, he was in the National League with the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. He had a very brief turn with the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.

Accolades Over the Years

Along with being the current save leader, Rodriguez has a few other accolades under his belt. He has been on six All-Star teams and he has been in a handful of Cy Young Award conversations. With the Angels, he finished as high as third and fourth place in three different years. In 2008, he finished in sixth place on the MVP ballot due to his 89.9% save record of 62 out of 69 saves.

Today is Rodriguez’s 35th birthday and 2016 will be his 16th year of pitching. Despite his age, he is still at or near the top of statistical lists. In 2016, he finished third in games finished with 55 behind Zach Britton with 63 and Roberto Osuna with 61. He finished second in total saves behind Britton. The other Detroit pitcher who ended up many of the best-of lists in 2016 was Verlander.

Fortunate Tigers Fans

Rodriguez is no longer the strikeout king that he once was, but he did have 52 of them in 2016. Not too bad for 58.1 innings pitched. He does need to decrease his walks for 2016 after allowing 21 batters reach base for free.

As Tigers fans and baseball fans, we should appreciate watching when Francisco Rodriguez is pitching. Maybe we’ve taken it for granted after several years of watching future Hall of Famers like Verlander and Cabrera, but we are fortunate to have Rodriguez on the team. Think about it: the Tigers are the only team who have the only active save leader on the roster.

It is safe to say that he will continue to move up the all-time list; he should overtake the third spot if he can earn 48 more saves. The second spot is only 33 more. Then, only Mariano Rivera stands in his way.

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